As 2012 comes to an end, I’m taking stock of a few things this year, mostly food-related, because of course. But first, a few nice things to cook this winter to keep warm (it’s snowing out here something fierce in Boston as I type this):
Roasted Kabocha Squash: Steamed to soften, seeds and pulp scraped out, cut into wedges, basted in melted unsalted butter (experiment with adding a pinch of sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, or whatever spices take your fancy), roasted at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, basted in more butter, roasted at 400 degrees for 20-30 more minutes until the surface turns a crispy brown. Enjoy, skin and all.
Spicy Chicken Stew: I like making this dish because it is extremely easy and very tasty. My mother used to call this dish “Seoul Chicken.” Chicken legs are brined in salt water for 30 minutes, then browned in a large pan with some olive oil. Your spicy sauce is made from soy sauce, honey, grounded Korean red pepper powder, minced garlic, and minced ginger. Throw in some potatoes, and carrots for flavor towards the end. Cover and cook.
The best part about the holidays is getting to spend time with family, and one of the best parts about spending time with family is watching my mother move around the kitchen, settling herself into the most uncomfortable looking positions for great lengths of time, prepping massive amounts of food, often with at least three things going on the oven, stove, and microwave. She is a juggler in the kitchen, an army general in food prep, a master of cooking, and terribly generous with her time, energy, and culinary talent — especially when it comes to feeding her family all their favorite foods. When she learned that my sister and I were coming for Christmas, she promptly went out and bought ten pounds of short ribs for galbi, duk-gook and mandu for duk-gook soup, and made a vat of my favorite Korean spicy stew.
The staple to every meal in a Korean household is kimchi, and this year I had the pleasure of watching my mother make tons of it to hand out as holiday gifts to her friends. There are many ways to make kimchi, of course, but we are kimchi snobs and know our good kimchi from our bad.
Needless to say, my mom makes very good kimchi.
It’s been awhile hasn’t it? I think I’m finding that my baking and cooking runs in anti-bear fashion: hibernate in the summer, out in full force in winter. Well, the days are finally cooling off, the sky is slowly being drained of its color, and the leaves are blooming and littering the narrow sidewalks of my wee little Boston neighborhood, Jamaica Plain. It’s the perfect kind of day to stay indoors and warm your apartment by running the oven and baking something.
I have very fond memories of my grandfather’s apricot tree and how, every summer, he would gather as many ripe apricots (and some not so ripe) as he could carry in the folds of his flannel shirt and bring his haul inside. How he would hold one up proudly and consume it within seconds, leaving only a pulpy stone behind.
I am very fond of apricots.
I confess my posting drops off sharply in the summer. There are too many things I can be tempted into doing other than baking in a hot kitchen on a summer day. I have a few apricot-related things to talk about at some point, but for now, there is this.
Lately my thoughts have been dithering in a hundred different directions — distracted by work, family, and my own interior life. Mostly I am thinking about beginnings and endings and how the line between them is very fine.
So, I’m in a bit of a quandary with some friends.
Well, okay, the issue is not between the friends and I, but rather, it’s my issues with my friends. You know the type (or rather, you will when I finish describing the type): you dread picking up the phone when they call because you know that for the next hour, they only thing they are going to do is talk about themselves and how great their life is and how many amazing things they have done. I know those are things that would annoying anybody, but it’s not that I even have issues with that.
No, my issues lie with my own failure to be impressed by all the wonderful things happening in my friends’ lives (I’m speaking in plural here, but it’s, uh, actually just one friend, but go with my on the intrigue of this, okay?). I find myself listening to the laundry list of accomplishments my friends boast about and thinking, “These things aren’t really that spectacular, but I am trying to be happy that they are happy about them, even if I don’t think selling your novel to an e-book publisher whose web site looks like it was created by a fourth-grader armed with free stock photos and MS Paint is something to be proud of.”
Spring has finally settled in Boston, which, in typical New England style, means schizophrenic shifts between almost 90-degree days and below-40 degree nights. Next week it will probably snow. However, there is one constant you can count on during spring even when all else fails: pollen attacking your face hard.
I can’t pretend this hasn’t been an odd, equally difficult week, for reasons entirely other than coworker conflict–mounting work expectations, several different people all asking you to do the impossible all at once, and getting angry at you when you tell them you are only human. But I don’t want to be the girl who blogs about how difficult her job is, because I am extremely grateful to even have a job that allows me to support myself in a very expensive city, and gives me a disposable income to boot. Let me not become that person.
Instead, let me complain about my insane downstairs neighbor who doesn’t want my roommate and I to use our kitchen after 9pm because our walking around makes too much noise.
Just kidding. Except not really. Our neighbor is actually that crazy.
It’s totally weird to realize how much you’ve grown emotionally as an adult.
For all my determination not to let the bastards grind me down, I am not one who enjoys confrontation, even necessary ones. I’m not the most emotionally in touch person and certainly not the most sensitive creature on the planet. There was a time when I would have let bridges completely burn down and simply cut my losses.
But I can’t afford to do that now, and, to my great surprise, nor do I even want to.